Did you ever, in your youth, draw the appraising gaze of an elder?
I remember my mother's friends looking appalled at my braless state and once, in church, a stranger walked over and draped her coat over my minidress, her mouth a pinched seam of disapproval.
Now that you're older, do you regard the more exuberant and expressive youths with approbation? I sometimes have to remind myself not to stare, but I hope my expression is neutral to admiring.
If not, I try to wear sunglasses!
Last week, I was in a boutique when a little punky girl of seventeen came in, all studs, graffiti'd moto, copious piercings and fuchsia hair. Her look was not really new, in fact quite retro, but she carried a great beauty under that hard shell, a face of timeless grace.
She had been transfixed by the Les Néréiades necklace in the window, dripping with crystals, beads and flowers.
When she put it on over her slashed tee, she transformed not into an ubiquitous Katie Holmes clone, but into her next, singular self. She bought it, murmuring that she had never spent so much on any item of jewelry, but figuring she would "wear it for life".
I had a sense that the hardcore costume was near the end of its shelf life, that she would transform her style very soon. Equally interesting was the way she adroitly negotiated the price, securing a 30% discount by politely asking to talk to the owner after the bored salesgirls brushed her off. Ah, I thought, brains and beauty.
Youth will ever extend and provoke our sense of what's "appropriate". And though we may no longer essay the bolder effects of these aware young women, they are reminders to resist generic blandness, even as we assign higher priority to comfort and value.